Immunosuppressant Nonadherence in Heart, Liver, and Lung Transplant Patients: Associations With Medication Beliefs and Illness Perceptions

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Abstract

Background

Nonadherence to immunosuppressant medication is a significant problem among solid organ transplant recipients. Previous research suggests that patients’ perceptions about their medications may be a better predictor of nonadherence than demographic factors. This study aimed to further investigate the role of patients’ perceptions about their transplant and medication beliefs in nonadherence.

Methods

This was a cross-sectional observational study. Participants were 87 heart, 46 lung, and 193 liver transplant patients. All surviving heart, lung, and liver transplant patients from Auckland City Hospital and Greenlane Hospital older than 16 years who had received their transplant at least 3 months before study commencement were mailed questionnaires. Standardized self-report measures were used to assess illness perceptions, medication beliefs, and adherence.

Results

Nonadherent patients had lower perceptions about the necessity of medication, weaker beliefs that medication could prevent rejection, and higher concerns about its harms, than adherers. Nonadherers perceived that their transplant and immunosuppressant medication caused more symptoms and were more distressed about symptoms than adherers; they understood their transplant less, perceived their transplant had a larger impact on their lives, affected them more emotionally, and caused greater concern, than patients who were more adherent. A regression model that included these perceptions and demographic variables correctly classified 71% of patients as adherent or nonadherent.

Conclusions

The perceptions that patients hold about their transplant and medications are associated with adherence to immunosuppressant medications. Future research could investigate whether a psychologic intervention could change patients’ perceptions to improve adherence.

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